MY DAY OFF

Julia Cumming of Sunflower Bean's Day Off in NYC's East Village Includes Stationery Shopping and Jazz

“Even though it's expensive and it may be too crowded to get a drink on a Friday night, it's still wonderfully charming."

By Sadie Bell and Julia Cumming

Published on 4/28/2022 at 12:00 PM

Indie rock artist Julia Cumming & band Sunflower Bean | Photo by DrielyS


Julia Cumming is the frontwoman of the three-piece NYC-based indie rock band Sunflower Bean. After coming up in the Brooklyn DIY music scene in the early 2010s, the neo-psychedelic/glam rock band went on to tour extensively and release two albums, 2016's Human Ceremony and 2018's Twentytwo in Blue, and is currently approaching the release of their third record, Headful of Sugar, due out May 6 via Mom + Pop.

Everything about how Sunflower Bean came up and our ethics is revolved around NYC. The first year that we were a band, Billy Jones, the owner of Baby's All Right, gave us a chance and had us as the house band. Any show that he thought would sell out, he put us on the bill. Everything that we have came out of the community and people rooting for us, and us rooting for them. Before the pandemic, I was on the road 100-150 nights out of the year, so at this point, I feel the most like a New Yorker that I probably have since high school, because it's the longest I've actually been here in one place.


I live in the apartment that I grew up in. It's rent stabilized in the East Village. It's all deep in my soul over here, and I still love spending time in the area. I start my day with a large black cold brew from All The King’s Horses. It was started by an Australian named Robbie Lecchino, who opened it out of this catering place that specialized in soups. When he opened, everyone in the neighborhood would come up to him and be like, "Are you still serving soup?" so he has soup on the menu because he was like, "If I'm in this neighborhood, I'm going to hold onto the staples of what everyone in the community wants and needs." We've become friends. He helped me organize a band merch pop-up where I put the word out to any bands that had extra merch they needed to sell, since nobody was touring, and he totally let us use the space. We ended up having 10 to 15 bands and my mom DJed. It was a way of finding a little bit of extra support in a really dark time.

Academy Records | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

"It's all deep in my soul over here, and I still love spending time in the area."

So once I've got my coffee from All The King’s Horses, I like to do some shopping in the afternoon. When I first became friends with Rahill Jamalifard from the band Habibi, she was like, "Come to Academy Records, I'm working here and hanging out." I fell in love with the energy there. I've found some of my favorite things in their discount bins. They have turntables where you can take the records out and listen to them, so it's the kind of place where the best thing you could do is take a chance on an album because everything there is going to be good. It's really important to support these places that still support the opportunity to find something original.


Especially in this neighborhood and in life, I think it's always the most rewarding to try to shop at independent places because you have a better chance of finding something special, like Academy Records. I love to go into the art book store Mast Books and take a chance. They have new, cool fiction, short stories, poetry, art, used coffee table books. It's another place to get lost and spend money, but you won't regret it. It's a similar experience going into Niconeco Zakkaya. It's the cutest, most peaceful, little stationery store. They have beautiful fountain pens for calligraphy, stationery sets, the most amazing notebooks, and wax seals. Going in and using their products is like a part of life slowing down.

"It's the cutest, most peaceful, little stationery store. They have beautiful fountain pens for calligraphy, stationery sets, the most amazing notebooks, and wax seals. Going in and using their products is like a part of life slowing down."

For lunch I love to get pizza at Gruppo, which I actually grew up eating, because there was a girl that I was friends with in my building whose family used to order it. It's extremely thin and almost refreshing pizza, but it's extremely, extremely good. Anytime the band can find a reason to have the meeting at Gruppo, we try to. You definitely see people from the neighborhood there all the time; it's like a little institution.


In the afternoon, I like to explore galleries like Art Expo on Avenue B. It has a very accessible feeling, which I think is a good energy to be surrounded by—that you don't have to pay a lot of money or go far or be in a museum to see art because there's a tangible place in the neighborhood that anyone can walk into and see a new show.


I also love to catch a movie at the Village East. There are so many movie theaters that look exactly like each other and this is not the case—where you can go in and feel like you're a part of NYC history in a way. It used to be a real theater, so there's a gorgeous cinema, and every time you go there, you hope that the movie you want to see is being shown in there. I remember going as a kid with my friends on a school half day. We saw Nacho Libre, and nobody was there. We were climbing on the banisters and rolling around on the ground while the movie was playing. It's one of these places where you can have experiences that you couldn't otherwise.

"The East Village is still one of these spots that is really holding on to the artist's spirit. It's what I love about the area, and the fact that it is still a neighborhood."

After going to Soda Club—the only place I've ever been a regular at a restaurant at—for vegan pasta for dinner, I like to end the night with a show at Nublu. They do a lot of different gigs—jazz, world music, and rock sometimes—and it's decorated almost like a lost era of New York, like a sort of Sex and the City and martini vibe. It has this feeling when you're in there where you're like, "Yeah, this is why I'm in New York. This is the kind of place that is important that it continues to exist."


I think now hearing people talk about NYC like, "Where is the energy and the people that have made this city the important center for art and music that we would love it to be?" The East Village is still one of these spots that is really holding on to the artist's spirit. It's what I love about the area, and the fact that it is still a neighborhood. Even though it's expensive and it may be too crowded to get a drink on a Friday night, it's still wonderfully charming. Every time you walk through Tompkins Square Park, you can still find kids with nothing to do but be fucking cool.

Places to Eat & Drink

All The King's Horses

521 E 12th St., New York City


Gruppo

98 Avenue B, New York City


Soda Club

155 Avenue B, New York City

Things to See & Do

Academy Records

415 E 12th St., New York City


Mast Books

72 Avenue A, New York City


Niconeco Zakkaya

263 E 10th St., New York City


Village East by Angelika

181-189 2nd Avenue, New York City


Nublu

151 Avenue C, New York City